MONTROSE youngster Riley Murray will fly to the United States this week for ground-breaking surgery which could change his life completely.
The six-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, will undergo an operation on his spine at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri to help him walk for the first time.
Riley’s mum and dad, Trudy and Dale, have been fund-raising for months with the aim of raising £55,000 to pay for the trip which they had been expecting to make in November.
But a cancellation by another patient led to the offer of an earlier appointment they felt they could not turn down and the generosity of their friends, family and the Montrose public meant they were in a position financially to accept and pay a deposit for the treatment.
Since the appeal started in April more than £53,000 has been raised and the entire family, including Riley’s five-year-old sister Layla, will fly out at the end of the week.
Trudy said: “Riley is really excited, he gets up every morning and is counting down the days. He doesn’t seem too worried and knows it will be life-changing for him. He keeps asking about the things he’ll be able to do after his visit.
“Because we knew the fund-raising was going so well we initially thought about November but we would have been away over Christmas which we didn’t really want. We felt that if we took this chance he would be on the mend by Christmas. It’s a different boy we’ll be bringing back.”
Riley, a pupil at Lochside Primary School, currently relies on an electric wheelchair to get around but the procedure, a selective dorsal rhizotomy, should give him a measure of independence the family had not thought possible.
The operation will be performed by renowned neurosurgeon Dr T.S. Park and will involve nerve roots in Riley’s spine, which cause his spasticity, being cut resulting in smoother, freer movements.
A second operation, to lengthen his hamstrings, will be carried out a few days later and two days after that Riley could be on his feet and starting to undergo a course of physiotherapy. After around three months he could be walking under his own steam, assisted by a mobility aid which he has never been able to do before.
Trudy said: “We’re so excited for Riley but we also know what he has to go through to get this. We’re really emotional about the whole thing but we have to do it as it will give him a chance for a better life.
“The hospital offered to do the hamstring surgery next year but we have to return then for a check-up and felt we wanted to get it all over and done with. We can also tell Riley that when we return there won’t be anything painful for him to go through.
“We’ve been gobsmacked at how quickly we’ve raised the money we needed. It has been an emotional rollercoaster but people’s generosity has been amazing. We can’t thank everyone enough who has contributed.
“This trip to America is going to be life-changing for the whole family and we couldn’t have done it without all our amazing friends and family as far and wide as Spain and America, Dale’s employers, NOV, and the people of Montrose.
“The support we’ve received from the town has left us lost for words so often in the last few months.”